Role of surface transport

The EU has no legally binding sectorial targets for transport within the ESD. However, neither the short-term 2030 ESD target nor the long-term 2050 targets are realistic without significant transport emissions cuts, as it is the largest sector within the ESD. According to projections from member states, without additional measures transport emissions will not decrease by 2030. Should transport not reduce its emissions by 30%, other sectors, such as buildings and agriculture, would need to do more.

The good news is that transport has the potential to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2030. Transport emission reductions must be achieved through a range of measures at the EU, national and local levels. However, no sustainable transport policy can be successful without cleaner vehicles and fuels. This means Europe urgently needs to start driving the technology and fuel transition that is needed to decarbonise the light-duty vehicle fleet and significantly reduce heavy-duty vehicle emissions by 2050.

A 2015 T&E report estimates that vehicle efficiency improvements for cars, vans and trucks could account for 30-60% of the transport total emission reductions that member states are required to make in the 2021-2030 period. More recently, Ricardo Energy & Environment estimated that vehicle efficiency could deliver up to 36-93% of the required 2030 emission cuts. A later ICCT report pointed to the same conclusions. This means member states are highly dependent on EU action to meet their 2030 ESD targets.

Also, member states have other options in their hands, such as  improvements to public transport, walking, cycling, and freight intermodality; fuel-efficient driver training; internalisation of external costs; speed enforcement and harmonisation; and revisions to company-car taxation policies. These are cumulatively of a similar scale to the EU-level measures. Some EU-level and member state policies work well in combination such as vehicle standards and national taxation policies on vehicles. Changes to the Eurovignette Directive and the Energy Taxation Directive can also help internalise external costs. In combination, EU and national-level policies enable transport to be decarbonised in line with 2030 ESD targets and ultimately 2050 goals.

What about other sectors?

As mentioned for surface transport, all sectors included in the ESD can and have to contribute to achieve the ESD targets. In the case of the building sector, both the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) must be strengthened to prevent the undermining of the environmental integrity of Europe's climate ambition, and to ensure that the full benefits for citizens, the environment and European economies are felt.

The existing Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is not ambitious enough: its ongoing review should ensure that it taps into the full potential of energy savings in the buildings sector and helps member states achieve the full potential of domestic energy savings.

The EED increases energy savings and consequently reduces greenhouse gas emissions, mainly in sectors that are relevant to the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). Therefore, the EED and the ESD are mutually reinforcing policies.

The current 2030 energy efficiency target of "at least 27%" is not in line with unleashing the full energy savings potential of any sector. A 40% binding energy savings target for 2030 coupled with robust energy efficiency legislation, is key to ensuring that the EU's trajectory is in line with a 1.5C temperature rise limit.

In agriculture, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) account for the most GHG emissions. The main abatement measures can be grouped into four main categories: 1) changes in feeding rations for cattle and improved cattle fodder (mainly aimed at lower CH4 emissions from manure storage and ruminants); 2) anaerobic digestion of the manure; 3) reduced nitrogen application (aimed at less N2O from soil applications of fertilizer and manure); and 4) application of nitrification inhibitors.

The main barriers limiting their uptake relate to the higher costs of implementing specific measures and of applying technological advances. Other major obstacles are the lack of information and awareness about possible abatement measures and the potential for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases on farms.